This has been getting to me for a little while. I hear a lot of popular photographers say that you won't make a lot of money being a photographer, or you won't get rich being a photographer. While, I do agree you may not make a lot of money, I disagree with the being wealthy.
Wealth is determined by all your accounts, including retirement. The big question becomes, what is wealthy? To each person it is a different answer. Some, it maybe $500,000, others it would be $500 million. Most photographers aren't going to do the Peter Lik thing by selling a $3.5 million photo. Chances are you may not even get the $1.2 million from a lawsuit.
However, if you put the recommended 15% of your income into an IRA or Roth IRA, you will have at least a million to retire on. Is that Wealthy? You tell me. Is it difficult to invest 15%? If you are debt free and have your emergency fund, look in your budget. According to the IRS, you can put $5,500 into an IRA. If you have a spouse, each of you can have an account, even if your spouse is not working. So, that brings the total up to $11,000 a year. You can contribute the same amounts to a Roth IRA, which is tax already taken out.
Let's say you invest $11,000 over 30 years at a 15% interest rate. That would equate to $4.8 million in your retirement account! That's just saving $917 per month, or $30.13 per day.
I am not a full-time photographer, so I don't completely understand the challenges that a full-time photographer has. What I do know is that you need to secure your own retirement. Do what you can so you can retire with dignity.
I am not a financial advisor, nor a CPA. Please talk to one of them for more information.